Clarinet Playing Advice – Practice Tips (Video 1/3)

9th April 2019

In the first of a series of three videos we look at some important points around efficient clarinet practice. With the help of top pro-player Nick Carpenter (former principal clarinet with London Philharmonic Orchestra) we discuss the importance of practice and some helpful tips and suggestions for how to practice efficiently…

The Main Points

In the video above Nick covers the fundamental truth that practice is a ‘technique’ you have to learn. Not all practice is ‘good practice’ as Nick explains, so let’s look at the two main suggestions to consider from the video:

  1. Practice the things you can’t play, not what you can play
  2. Practice at the speed of no mistakes

More Info

You could argue these points are fairly obvious, BUT how many of us can say we really apply these principles every time we practice? Often what we know is best vs what we do in reality are two different things! By internalising the correct patterns you will find your practice to be far more effective.

Don’t be afraid to practice some elements very slowly if needs be. Pick out the areas you feel are technically demanding for you and assess and repeat these notes and passages at slow speeds. Perhaps even break it down into 1/2 bars and so on. It’s very important to spend the majority of your practice time on these areas that you can’t play!

In this video Nick also explains ‘block repetition’ and ‘spaced repetition’ methods for practicing. The block repetition is important in the early stages to teach the brain the technical movements and passages. The spaced repetition comes later in the learning process where the technicals are under your fingers. Here you practice different segments of the piece in various orders, i.e. you teach your brain to forget and retrieve the information in various ways which helps cement the learning process.

More Than Technique

Towards the end of the video we discuss why it’s so important to get the technical practice done and out of the way so you can actually concentrate on the music making. Only when the piece feels comfortable under the fingers can you then start to add and maximise dynamics, interpretation and much more.

What Next?

We’ll be back with another video very soon featuring Nick talking about some alternate fingerings for Clarinet. Make sure you’ve signed up to our Clarinet Newsletter to get the notification.

Nick is currently the┬áHead of Woodwind performance at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama. He plays Yamaha YCL-CSGIIIHL Clarinets and uses D’Addario Reeds.